Father Joakin Mayorga, who is the head of Pastoral Social (Social Services) of the Diocese of Magangue, and who attended Colombia Support Network Œs annual national meeting in Madison in April, and who then visited CSN chapters in Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota, denounced publicly acts perpetrated by the Colombian Army against residents of the municipality of Tiquisio on January 26 and 27 of this year.
Father Joakin took the information concerning what had happened from members of the victims¹ families and other residents of the region and made a public presentation in writing, in which he stated, among other things that the events were very serious and ³apparently were committed by army troops of the Narino Battalion with headquarters in El Banco, Magdalena state, who are the responsible armed forces for the area where the events occurred²
For speaking out courageously giving voice to the victims of abuse and their friends and neighbors, Father Joakin has been charged with the crime of calumny by elements of the Colombian army. His life has been placed in danger and, rather than investigate the disappearance and death of persons alleged by the army to be guerrillas, the Colombian army has focused on Father Joakin and wrongly charged him with false accusations against the army.
THE EVENTS HE DENOUNCED :
On Tuesday January 27, 2004 in the town of Canonigo, Bolivar State, troops of the Narino Battalion headquartered in the city of El Banco, Magdalena state, took into custody and disappear
HOVANIS VEGAS -ATENCIO
JAIRO VILLALBAS -CAMPUSANO
NOLBERTO CAMPUZANO- ZULETA and
OSNAIDER SOLANO- ZULETA who is 13 years old.
Hovanis Vegas and Jairo Villalbas were working with a sand filter used for filtering gold in the region. On a separate mission Nolberto Campuzano and Osnaider Solano 13 years old, were doing an errand for their family and were last seeing alive in the region, when they were returning home around 11 a.m. in a place called Casa de Barro.
On January 30 a delegation of 29 inhabitants of the region went to look for Nolberto and Osnaider they found out that not only they but also two other young men had also been disappeared, who were Jovanis and Jairo. On January 30 the same commission went to the town of Coco Tiquisio and spoke to a Captain ( today Major) Espitia who did not solve the situation. On January 31 the delegation of inhabitants went to talk to the Captain Espitia again and he did not receive them. After leaving them for 4 hours standing on the street and when the members of the commission protested strongly, Captain Espitia finally came out to tell them that he had the 3 dead bodies and showed them pictures of the bodies. Captain Espitia did not allow them to see the corpses. The whereabouts or status of the 13-year-old boy Osnaider Solano-Zuleta are unknown.
During his month long visit to the United States in April of this year, hundreds of people came to know and appreciate Father Joakin for his honest concern for the poor and for his fervent commitment to peace through community organization.
We need now to stand by him to express our support for this courageous man of peace who seeks the truth in defense of victims of violence. The Colombian Army, recipient of billions of dollars of U.S. Government aid over the past few years through Plan Colombia, most be held accountable for the crimes of its members which it sanctions by its silence. In this case is the Narino Battallion which charge Father Joakin of false accusations. Let¹s have at least hundreds of people express their support for Father Joakin in letters, faxes, emails and phone calls to Colombian Government officials, the U.S. State Dpt and the U. S. embassy in Bogota. And we should demand an accounting from the Uribe administration for the persons disappeared and killed by government forces.
Please write to the following Colombian authorities, by email as well as letter, to ask them to protect Father Joakin¹s life and his right to work in defense of human rights .
Presidencia de la República
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez,
Cra. 8 No..7-26, Palacio de Nariño,
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71
Ministerio de Defensa Nacional
Dr. Jorge Alberto Uribe
El Dorado con Carrera. 52 CAN,
Santa fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1)222.18.74
Procuraduría General de la Nación
Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón
Carrera 5 No. 15-80
Santa Fe de Bogotá.
Fax: (+57 1)342.97.23
PLEASE ALSO WRITE TO THE COLOMBIA DESK AT THE STATE DPT
COLOMBIA DESK STATE DPT
Tel (202)647 3360
200 Constitution Ave N.W.
Washington d.C. 20210
AND PLEASE write to your representatives in Congress to let them know that U.S. funds should not support the Colombian army, which is engaged in killing innocent civilians. Request a halt in all U.S. military aid to Colombia, since it clearly is being used to strengthen an army which attacks innocent civilians. Send us copies of your letters to be delivered to Father Mayorga and the community in Bolivar state.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621